Friday, July 31, 2009

Game 103: After The Gold Rush

The trade deadline came and went for the Yankees without much action. They traded for Eric Hinkse a while back, Jason Hirsh a couple days ago and picked up Jerry Hairston, Jr. today. But I think most fans were holding out hope that they could snag a solid reliever or back end starter as 4:00 came and went. Alas, they did not and will have to see who passes through waivers before they made a deal.

The White Sox on the other hand, came up with what was easily the most surprising deal of the trade deadline. They once again dealt for Jake Peavy, but this time he approved it. He is currently on the DL, but as long as both teams are okay with that and he passes a physical, it's fair game. Peavy is rehabbing an ankle injury and apparently won't be back until August 15th at the very earliest.

It came at a fairly significant cost, however. Part of the package was tonight's starter for the Sox, Clayton Richard. The 25 year old lefty had a 5.14 ERA in 136 2/3 Big Leauge IP, but his minor league numbers are pretty solid. In addition, his last two starts were phenomenal, both consisting of 8 innings of one run ball. Perhaps the Padres were intrigued by his recent dominance and that's what sparked the negotiations?

Instead of Richard, D.J. Carrasco will go for the Sox. He's made 34 appearances this year, none of them starts, and the longest was 3 2/3 innings on July 19 against the Orioles in mop-up duty. He made 20 starts for the Royals in 2005 and pitched to an ERA slightly below league average (92 OPS+). The Sox are throwing him out there for lack of a better option and the fact he pitched three nights ago means that he's probably on a fairly limited pitch count. It would seem their underbelly is exposed and it would be a good time for the Yanks' bats to strike.

The Bombers send their own liability to the mound tonight. Sergio Mitre has been fairly serviceable so far in his two starts, lasting 5 2/3 and giving up 3R in his first, while following a 4 run first inning in his second outing with 4 scoreless ones. Both of those gamed ended up in the win column, so I guess that means he was good enough, right?

Barring the acquisition of a player who passes through waivers, this is the team that the Yankees are working with for the rest of the year. Mark Teixeira thinks that's good enough to win with. A lot of that hinges on Mitre's ability to put together respectable starts. If he can hold a spot in the rotation, it will greatly temper the need for the Yanks to start pulling their bullpen apart to patch up the rotation.

Here we are, Fackers, coming around the back stretch. The Yanks struck it rich in July, going 18-8 so far. Let's close out the best month of the season in style.

I was lying in a burned out basement,
With the full moon in my eyes.
I was hoping for replacement,
When the sun burst through the sky.

It's Something... Yanks Acquire Jerry Hairston, Jr.

According to Joel Sherman, the Yanks have acquired Jerry Hairston, Jr. from the Reds. No word on who or what is going back. [Update: The return for the Reds is Chase Weems, a Single A catcher.]

Knee jerk time!
  • Hairston can play every position on the field except for catcher (he presumably could play first but never does). With most players that would be hyperbole, but this year he has played one game in RF, 3 in CF and 8 or more at LF, 2B, 3B, and SS. [Update: He appears to be roughly average or better at every position.]
  • He's 33 years old and is making $2M this year. No word on whether Hal Steinbrenner is going to be a dick and make the Reds pay some of his salary. [Update: He also has performance bonuses that could escalate his salary up to $2M more]

  • His 8 HR this year already tie a career high set in 2001. He's made 340 PA's, his second most since 2003.
Given that Weems was the 4th or 5th catcher in the system at best, the trade seems to work on both ends. The Reds likely weren't asking for a lot, considering they are out of the race, Hairston would have been gone at the end of the year and wasn't going to net them any draft picks. They probably didn't mind picking up a halfway decent prospect and saving a little money in the process.

Versatility is key with Brett Gardner out right now. He's like a super Cody Ransom - old, good at defense, can play a lot of positions, etc.

I'll update this post with more as it comes.

Tick, Tock, Tick, Tock

Quarter past 3:00, and nothing is doing on the Yankee front. A few things are going down around the league with some relevance to our cause, though. Let's check in with MLBTR:
If calling up Shelly Duncan from AAA is the biggest thing that happens on the trade deadline, I'm going to be pretty disappointed.

"Let's Move On"

Yesterday, I dropped the sentence above at the very end of the Manny and Ortiz post. It was met with some friendly disagreement in the comments so I just wanted to take a moment to clarify the point.

The overriding sentiment from the commenters was that the Sox fans had their fun with all the steroid controversy surrounding the Yankees and now it's time to give it back to them.

Sox fans were merciless with Jason Giambi until the day he left, no doubt. They got various steroids chants going for Andy Pettitte on the heels of the Mitchell Report, but those have largely subsided. They were anxious to point out that they had the "clean" years of Roger Clemens' career. But let's see how aggressive with the "You-Took-Ster-Oids" chants they are next time A-Rod comes to Fenway. Like any other fanbase Red Sox Nation has it's fair share of dickheads, but most people with a reasonable amount of frontal lobe activity are going to realize they are now the pot calling the kettle black. If any of the fackin' Sullies and Murphs do start to get mouthy, Yanks fans can counter with "So-Did-Pa-Pi". What are we going to do beyond that?

I'd be lying if I said there wasn't an element of personal satisfaction and Soxenfreude involved in all of this. There more certainly is. Aside from the Yankees, it's the most central theme of this blog, for fuck's sake. But any of the idiots who were foolish enough to point the finger at the rest of the league, and really thought they were going to skate away with no stars on the Red Sox being implicated in PED use, and thought that 2004 was a gift from God, pure as the driven snow, just took a shot to the solar plexus. And that's good enough for me.

This news doesn't change what happened in 2004 from our eyes, though. The '04 roster of the Yankees included A-Rod, Gary Sheffield, Kevin Brown, Jason Giambi and almost certainly some other guys who haven't been outed yet. Their cheaters were a microscopic amount better (or just luckier) than our cheaters.

What we are heading towards is a realization that almost nothing is free from the stain of PEDs, one player and subsequently one fanbase at a time. Very few individual accomplishments and absolutely no Championships in say, the last 15-20 years or so are going to above reproach.

Like always, the Yankees are at the forefront of this, like they are in almost every aspect of baseball. We as Yankee fans are again ahead of the curve. Whether you like dragging people into the mud with you is a matter of personal preference, but it don't get a whole lot out of it.

Remembering The Captain

We'll take a brief respite from the trade dealine madness to remember what is likely the most tragic day in Yankee history. Sunday marks the thirty year anniversary of the death of Thurman Munson.

As we counted down to Spring Training, Jay had a great look back at Munson. That was before my time at Fack Youk, and as we approach this sad anniversary I wanted to offer my own remembrance. Despite his passing more than thirteen months before I was born, Munson has long been one of my favorite Yankees. I suppose it stems from my father; with the possible exception of Mickey Mantle, Munson is his all-time favorite.

As I grew interested in baseball, it was of course my father who taught me about baseball history and about Yankee history, and of course, there was the obligatory Munson lesson. At some point in my youth I inherited the #15 Yankee t-shirt my father had outgrown. Age and wear and tear eventually rendered that shirt unwearable, but a Munson shirt I purchased in Cooperstown some years ago remains my shirt of choice when venturing to the Bronx.

One of the first games I can recall going to was shortly after the tenth anniversary of Munson's death. I can recall visiting his plaque in Monument Park that day, as well as receiving the commemorative issue of Yankees Magazine that I read until it fell apart. A few years later I came upon Munson's autobiography, co-authored by Marty Appel, and read that one over and over. I recently completed Appel's comprehensive Munson biography. I have mixed feelings about the book - and may well review it here at some point - but by default it has to be considered the definitive work on Munson and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to know more about him.

What is it about Munson that makes him so beloved thirty years after he last played? Certainly his untimely demise plays into it, as his does his role as the face of the Yankees during the most colorful period of their history. A Rookie of the Year award, MVP award, three Gold Gloves awards, three pennants, and two World Championships certainly help too, as does serving as the first Yankee Captain since Lou Gehrig.

But more than that, I think there was something inherently likeable about Munson. Despite his midwestern roots and sensibilities, his personality was also sarcastic and confident enough to endear him to New York fans. His squatty, unathletic-looking build made him appear as a scrappy over-achiever, despite his natural talents. He perpetually played hurt, and despite the madness of the Bronx Zoo years, Munson usually managed to stay above the fray. He was the face of the franchise as they emerged from the worst stretch of their post-deadball history back to being a championship club.

But those are just my impressions looking back on a player I wasn't lucky enough to see. So what do you say Fackers? For those of you who saw him play, what are your memories of The Captain?

(I know I'm breaking our black and white image policy,
but I love the orange catcher's gear)

Trade Needs And Options

We're six hours and counting from the non-waiver trade deadline. Before we take a look at what the Yankees' needs are, first, let's take a look at their roster situation. Things aren't nearly as bad as they were in late May when I went on this diatribe, but the organization doesn't have quite the roster flexibility I'd like right now.

The Yankees are currently at the limit on their 40 man roster. They have a bit of flexibility in that both Xavier Nady and Chien-Ming Wang can be moved to the 60 day DL to open two spots on the 40 man. One of those spots will likely be taken by Shelley Duncan today, as all indications are that the Yankees will stop carrying the ludicrous 13 man pitching staff they've had all this week and add a righty bat with the ChiSox throwing southpaws in the three remaining games this series. That will leave the Yankees with one other spot to add a player without removing someone already on the roster.

Still, they're a bit hamstrung. Ian Kennedy, Christian Garcia, and Kevin Cash are all out for the season with injuries. Since none were on the Major League roster at the time of their injuries, they can't be placed on the 60 day DL. I'm not sure that they can be called up and DL'd either. The Yankees wouldn't consider releasing IPK or Garcia, but would Cash - I just don't know if the CBA would allow that.

Damaso Marte, on the DL since April, is in the midst of a rehab assignment, but the latest scouting reports have not been good. He gave up 2 HRs in his last appearance and was clocked topping out at 88 MPH. Given that the Yanks are in the market for bullpen help, I doubt you'd see anything happen with Marte, but there is a slim possibility he could be moved to the 60 day to create additional room.

Juan Miranda, though producing rather well, is blocked by Teix, and has little trade value. He may be a candidate for DFA if another spot is needed.

Got all that? OK, here's what I figure the Yanks are going to be looking for today:
1). Utility infielder. Cody Ransom has been hot of late (3 for his last 7, 3 2B), but at 33 he is what he is, and what he is is replacement level at best. With A-Rod, Jeter, and Cano, the Yankees don't need a back-up IFer often, but they may look for an upgrade if one's available. Ramiro Pena is waiting in Scranton, and while he offers a great glove and good speed, he doesn't have much of a bat and is in Scranton ostensibly to learn the OF as well.

2). Back-up CFer. Speaking of the OF, Brett Gardner's broken thumb has left the Yankees without a viable CF back-up, and Shelley Duncan's likely arrival today will do nothing to change that. At the start of the season, I wouldn't have had a problem with Johnny Damon and Nick Swisher out there in an emergency, but after their collective performance at the corners this year I don't feel that way any longer.

I highly doubt the Yankees will go the trade route on this one, as whoever the back-up is will likely be a goner when Gardner is ready to return. But given Melky's streakiness, I wouldn't entirely rule out going after a new CFer all together. More likely, the Yanks will go after former top prospect Corey Patterson, as has been rumored, especially since Josh Anderson was flipped to KC.

3). Some sort of pitcher. This is both the trickiest one to figure, but also the biggest need. The Yanks want at least one pitcher if not more. They've been rumored for both starters and relievers. Maybe they view that as two separate needs, or maybe they view it as one that can be filled in one of two ways. They did acquire Josh Hirsch from the Rockies on Wednesday, but that appears to be a move for needed depth in Scranton. Given Hirsch's numbers, I pray we don't see him in the Bronx this year.
Sergio Mitre is not the answer in the rotation's five spot. It doesn't appear that anyone on the 40 man is ready to step in. Personally, I think Mitre may be of some use in the pen, which could mean Alf or Hughes goes to the rotation, but the Yankees have given every indication that they want both those guys to stay in the pen this year.

All that, coupled with Joba Chamberlain's impending innings limit situation and CMW being gone until who knows when, makes the need for a starter even greater. Cliff Lee has been dealt, Roy Halladay appears to be staying put (and is too pricey IMO), leaving Jarrod Washburn as the most rumored name out there. But, given the M's move on Wednesday, it would appear that they're buyers rather than sellers.

To me, Washburn in the most appealing in terms of price, but I have concerns about how he'd perform for the Yanks. On the surface the veteran southpaw is having a great year (162 ERA+) after spending five of the last six at or below league average. But 34 year old pitchers don't often show such drastic improvement, and Washburn is no exception. Digging deeper, there's a lot to suggest Washburn isn't pitching as well as his surface numbers indicate.

First, his BABIP is .249, well below the league average of .300 - that will likely be correcting itself over the season's last two months. Second, his FIP is 3.75, still better than league average, but much worse than his 2.64 ERA. Third, Washburn is an extreme flyball pitcher. That works to his advantage pitching half his games in spacious Safeco Park with an excellent outfield defense. I shudder to think how that would play in the new Yankee Stadium, against AL East competition, with the Yankees outfield "defense" behind him. He may suffice as a fourth or fifth starter - which is really what the Yanks are looking for - but let the buyer beware.

The Yankees have also been linked to bullpen arms such as Chad Qualls and Scott Downs. Presumably, such an acquisition would allow the Yanks to work Phil Hughes back into the rotation, which might be the plan anyway with Joba fast approaching his innings limit.

Clear as mud, right? That's just what I'm thinking and reading around the interwebs. Who knows what kind of ace Brian Cashman has up his sleeve this time. We'll have a better idea in a few hours.

Non-Waiver Trade Deadline: Deal (Or No Deal)

[Song starts around 2:15]

Since it cost a lot to win,

And even more to lose,
You and me bound to spend some time,
Wondering what to choose.

Goes to show you don't ever know,
Watch each card you play,
And play it slow,
Wait until that deal come 'round,
Don't you let that deal go down, No no.

Good morning Fackers. At long last I'm back home - though I'm not quite sure what day it is or which time zone I'm in. They tell me it's Friday and the work week is at an end, so we might as well start it off with the some Dead this morning.

Today is one of my favorite sporting days of the year: baseball's non-waiver trade deadline. I can remember when the deadline was at midnight rather than four, before the internet had really taken off. It was a lot harder to stay updated in those days. will have all the updates you need as the day wears on. And we'll be sure to keep you posted on anything Yankee-specific.

Rest assured the vast majority of what you hear today will center around Roy Halladay. I don't know what to believe of the hundreds of rumors out there, but my gut feeling is that J.P. Ricciardi has over-played his hand and Doc won't be going anywhere. I have to admit though, I am a little concerned at the notion of the Red Sox jumping into the fray. They certainly have the prospects to get a deal done, and a Halladay/Lester/Beckett front three would be quite formidable.

That said. I'd hate to see the Yankees jump into the mix just to block the Sox. That's the mentality that landed Jose Canseco in the Bronx in 2000. Don't get me wrong, Halladay would be a tremendous addition to the Yanks (or any team), but at what cost? I figure it would take either Joba or Hughes, plus Jesus Montero and/or Austin Jackson, plus another prospect or two (Zach McAllister, Dellin Betances, Austin Romine, Manny Banuelos, Wilkins De La Rosa, Jeremy Bleich, etc.) Personally, that's not a price I'm willing to pay.

First off, in Hughes or Joba the Yankees would be giving up a critical piece to the team as it's currently constructed. Yes, Halladay is a better pitcher than both, but it would only be an incremental upgrade. Secondly, AJax may be a contributor as soon as this September. He is one of the few viable position prospects in the upper levels of the system, and with only Melky Cabrera, Brett Gardner, and Nick Swisher under contract for next year's outfield, I'd like to keep him. Meanwhile Montero appears to be the best bat to come through the system in the last decade. He may or may not be able to stick at catcher, but I'm willing to give him time until we can find out. As fans we may be guilty of over valuing our prospects from time to time, but I'd much rather watch this group bomb as Yankees rather than blossom as Blue Jays.

The trade deadline is risky business. I have faith in Brian Cashman. I just hope he heeds the above words of wisdom courtesy of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter.

Back in a bit with a look at the lay of the land for the Yankees as they weigh their options today.

ChiSox Walk Off In Pitchers' Duel

Thanks to a one hour rain delay, the Yankee game was only an inning old when I touched down at LaGuardia last night. Thanks to some speedy work by the baggage handlers, it was only two innings old as turned on the White Sox radio broadcast when I got in my car. Thanks to a lack of traffic and an overwhelming desire to get home after a week on the road, I made it to my living room in time to watch Dewayne Wise line a single off Phil Coke's glove to end it in the bottom of the ninth.

As is my custom, if forced to listen on the radio while the Yanks are on the road, I went with the home broadcast on XM rather than suffer through John and Suzyn. Unfortunately, ChiSox announcers Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson are only slightly less obnoxious than the WCBS crew, and nearly as openly homers as notorious ChiSox TV man Hawk Harrelson.

Both Andy Pettitte and Gavin Floyd had outstanding starts, aided in part by a generous strike zone from home plate umpire Ted Barrett. The Yankees struck out 14 times, half of them looking. Pettitte struck out eight of his own, and only one walk was issued all night - Johnny Damon in the first inning.

The White Sox drew first blood, as a two out double from Gordon Beckham in the third scored Chris Getz from first.

It remained that way until the sixth, as the Yankees used doubles from Jose Molina and Johnny Damon to tie the score. Damon reached second with just one out, but neither Mark Teixeira nor Alex Rodriguez could bring him home. The Yankees also squandered a Melky Cabrera leadoff double in the third, and a first and second two out opportunity for Teix in the eighth. It was just one of those nights.

The White Sox re-took the lead in the seventh, exploiting some sloppy Yankee defense. Jim Thome led off by tapping back to Pettitte, but Pettitte slipped on the slick field, allowing Thome to reach. After a Paul Konerko strikeout, A.J. Pierzynski reached on an IF single that A-Rod may or may not have been able to field cleanly. Carlos Quentin then bounced a potential inning ending double play ball to third, but a high, hard slide from Pierzynski forced Cano to throw away the relay, allowing Thome to score.

The Yanks did catch a bit of luck in the ninth. With no one on, two outs, and an 0-1 count against him, Nick Swisher knocked a game tying home run against his former team. It looked like the Yanks had a little magic going their way again, and it was assuredly gratifying for Swish to momentarily spoil victory for his former team, but it wasn't to last. In the bottom of the ninth Phil Hughes pitched into a two on, one out jam, before giving way to Phil Coke. Coke recorded the second out, bringing Dewayne Wise - hitting under .200 and in the game for defensive purposes - to the plate. Wise smoked a 2-2 liner up the middle, glancing off Coke's glove. Coke was maybe a half second away from sending the game to extras. Instead, his deflection eliminated what little chance Melky Cabrera had to gun down the speedy Scott Podsednik as the winning run.

These games will happen from time to time. Hughes had to give up a run sooner or later. Let's take solace in Pettitte's impressive performance and hope the Yanks can take at least two of the remaining three to salvage a split.

Big day tomorrow. We'll be back at it bright and early.